Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Jobs that begin with the letter 'L'

Such as 'lexicographer', were one of the subjects on our local radio station today, so I spent ten minutes talking to Lesley Dolphin, host of the BBC Radio Suffolk afternoon show, about the life of a lexicographer. There is a link here:

(the interview is from about 0.55.21 and goes up to about 1.05.00)

Because this is on BBC's 'Listen again' Iplayer facility I think it will expire on Oct 18th 2011 (one week after the show was aired) and it is probably only available in the UK.

Here are some of the points that came up:

  • Yes, at some point someone did write every entry that you read in the dictionary. At some point there was a blank screen that was filled in by a fallible human to the best of their abilities. And therefore it is occasionally wrong.
  • There are lots of ways to decide what to write in a dictionary but, because we now have a lot of evidence (Corpus) you would have to work very hard to persuade me that you would write a better dictionary without looking at Corpus or other genuine real-person language output
  • Language changes and always has done. English is no exception (and maybe changes more than some others)
  • You don't need to patrol language. Just record it. Language is perfectly capable of protecting itself.

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